Leicester are looking like a bunch of 'sore losers'

LEICESTER insist they are simply upholding a "duty" to protect the integrity of the Heineken Cup by complaining so vociferously over the Ospreys' 16th-man affair. But the Leicester board's seemingly desperate attempts to force their way back into the competition, by employing a law firm and demanding a replay, is unedifying.

It is clear something went wrong at the Liberty Stadium, when Lee Byrne returned from the bloodbin without his temporary replacement Sonny Parker leaving the field. During that 55-second period, Byrne tackled Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs to halt the Tigers' best attacking move of the second-half.

The Ospreys went on to win 17-12 and Leicester, the three-time European champions, had failed to qualify from the pool stages. But there were no complaints from Leicester's own director of rugby Richard Cockerill, who conceded his side had simply not been good enough. The Tigers had also been thumped by Clermont Auvergne earlier in the group stages.

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"We were beaten fair and square. I am a lover of the game and I am sure it was a mistake by somebody," he said. Cockerill's post-match stand was honourable. With the adrenalin and frustration pumping, he could have been forgiven for mouthing off.

Leicester are one of the heaviest hitters in the European game and to miss out on the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup is a significant blow, both in rugby and financial terms.

Perhaps his recent four-week touchline ban for match official abuse had something to do with it. Either way, Cockerill was willing to accept the Tigers' fate.

Not so the Leicester board. Tigers chairman Peter Tom and chief executive Peter Wheeler were both wheeled out after the match to make it clear that Leicester would be submitting an official complaint.

Given the tournament rules, Leicester had to raise the point before the officials could look into the incident so their actions, to that end, were justified. But that is where Leicester's involvement should have ended.

Instead, far from carrying the torch of justice, Leicester have painted themselves as a bunch of sore losers trying to engineer a way back into the competition.

Tournament regulations state the result must stand. There is a precedent of sorts from the 2003 World Cup, when England briefly had 16 men on the field against Samoa and ended up with a fine.

But that has not stopped Leicester from engaging expensive lawyers in the hope of forcing a replay. "We want what is right and fair for that situation. The only way to put us back in that situation is to replay the game," said Wheeler.

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The Ospreys and Byrne have been called to face a European Rugby Cup Ltd disciplinary hearing in Dublin today after being hit with misconduct complaints.